More on Touchstones and Convictions
So, the question has come up about why have more than one conviction and by extension, touchstones. I’ve done a lot of reading today and think I came up with an answer.
As we all know by now, convictions are tied to touchstones and touchstones are tied to convictions. They go hand-in-hand. You have a touchstone that speaks to what the conviction means. For example, if your touchstone is your mortal daughter, you may have the conviction of, “Never expose children to violence.” Convictions can run the gamut and are chosen according to your vision of what your vampire believes in.
Convictions can even be tied to BEING a vampire. You can have the Conviction of: “Those who cross me deserve what they get” and have it tied to a crooked cop or Mafia enforcer. Convictions do not need to be “good” but they do need to be appropriate and have meaning to your vampire. You can look at them like the Paths in the previous editions of Vampire. Some of the path convictions were harsh. Path of Night, for instance, had a ethic of, “Leave no being untouched by your taint.” The Paths were developed in order to keep a vampire from falling to their Beasts and the Convictions and Touchstones in V5 offer the same thing.
Convictions and their corresponding Touchstones keep you tied to you Humanity by giving you something to hold onto. In other words, “No Man is an Island.” No one, Kindred or Kine, can stand alone and without mortal (human) contact. They are “soul armor.” Your character, in becoming a Vampire, has lost hold of what made them human. It died with them, they must work to keep their Beast at bay. Even in the example above, where the touchstone is a crooked cop, the Vampire must interact with and protect that cop from harm. Interaction with a human helps remind the Vampire of who they once were, even if it wasn’t the best person ever. I look at that example like a scene in the Godfather. When Clemenza and Rocco kill Pauly in the car, Clemenza quips, “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” In another scene, as Clemenza heads out to get stuff for the gang to “go to the mattresses” he kisses his wife goodbye and tells the driver to “watch the bike” in the driveway. Clemenza was not a nice guy, he was a killer, a gangster, but he loved his family and cooked Spaghetti for his boys. Clemenza is a good touchstone for a Vampire whose history is along the same lines. Interacting with him would remind the Vampire that while killing is sometimes a necessity, so is caring for and protecting those around them, especially those that keep him tied to his precious Humanity.
Touchstones and Convictions protect your character from sliding downward too fast. Sure, the downward spiral may be inevitable, but it could and should take a long time. Not having that armor makes it happen fast. Yes, chronicle tenets also must be adhered to, but Convictions are an extra layer protecting you. Otherwise, if you have none or only 1 and you lose that, you have little protecting you.
For instance, let’s say you have the following scenario:
Joe-Joe was a low-level Mafioso in life. He is embraced into the Brujah and from the moment he woke he felt his Beast gnawing at his insides, telling him to kill and drink blood. But, he was lucky and had Gianni, his pal in life, his buddy with whom he collected protection money from businesses. He also had his son, with whom he played catch and went fishing. Gianni was as bad a guy as they came. He was wicked with a baseball bat and broke many a knee in his time. His son, on the other hand, had a real aptitude for baseball and could name off random stats of random ballplayers without any effort or Google. Joe-Joe had done everything he could to protect his son from learning what he REALLY did for a living and kept him entirely separate from that horrible world he lived in. Gianni was Joe-Joe’s role model in all of that. Gianni had a wife and three beautiful daughters that he’d do anything for.
After his embrace, Joe-Joe, if he had a character sheet, would have the following on it:
“Those who cross me or mine get what they deserve” - tied to Gianni and “Never expose children to violence” - tied to his son.
So, how does this come into play? Here is an example and a contrast to older editions of VTM:
Sam Cooper is a local guy who leads an up-and-coming biker gang. He sets his eye on the area that Joe-Joe and his coterie have claimed as their territory. One of Joe-Joe’s coterie mates reports that Cooper killed two people in that area the night before, which, unknown to Cooper, were ghouls of this coterie mate. Joe-Joe sees red. Those two ghouls were the eyes and ears of the coterie and kept an eye on the bar they liked to hang out at. So, he sets out to find and ultimately, he kills Cooper.
In old VTM, that would mean a humanity check. In V5, the “Soul Armor” of his Conviction of, “Those who cross me or mine get what they deserve” keeps him from acquiring too many Stains on his Humanity. In this case, Joe-Joe would probably only incur 1 stain rather than 3 or so. At the end of a “session” (This time period is to to be determined by the STs, we have not discussed it yet) Joe-Joe’s player can roll to see if he has remorse for his actions and if he gets at least 1 success, the Stains are removed. If he fails, he loses a dot in Humanity.
If Joe-Joe had not had that Conviction of “Those who cross me or mine get what they deserve” he would have gotten a lot more stains and before long, if he kept at this sort of play, he’d have no humanity to speak of and be taken out of the game. The flipside is, if all he had was, “Never expose children to violence” and his son saw him violently kill someone in front of him and then ran away, never to speak to or contact Joe-Joe again, that Conviction is lost and Joe-Joe is rudderless in the storm of the World of Darkness. There is a way in which he can possibly replace the son as a Touchstone but if that roll fails, all Joe-Joe has to protect his Humanity are the Chronicle Tenets and once he violates those- which is easier and easier to do as your Humanity drops- he again has nothing to protect him from becoming a ravening Beast.
Keep in mind that, yes, as your Humanity drops it becomes harder to go lower, but it can happen and it becomes easier to do more heinous things. It is exponential. Killing by accident is bad. Killing on purpose is worse. Killing horrifically is awful. Torturing someone to death slowly is horrific. But that is how it goes and why, at the end of the day, you want to keep to your Convictions and protect your Touchstones.
And…not to put too fine a point on it:
The more the merrier when it comes to Convictions and Touchstones.